ST. LOUIS ( -- Maria McCauley fell in love with her Potosi home back in 2008.

For years, though, she never knew what was lurking in the soil, elevated levels of lead.

In 2013, McCauley received a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), addressed to a previous owner.

She was shocked at what she read. It said the EPA had found concerning levels of lead in the soil of the yard in 2005.

“That was my surprise, so I was like ‘whoa, I have lead in my yard,’” she said.

Lead poisoning can cause an array of mental and physical health problems in adults and is especially dangerous to children.

So how'd it get there?

Mining in the area dates back to the 1700's. That's why it's often called The Lead Belt. Lead got into the soil, often because it was used as fill dirt on people's properties.

McCauley's home, her letter said, was on list of hundreds the federal government was promising to clean up. But fast forward from 2013 to 2019 and she is still waiting.

“It’s not acceptable that it was tested in 2005 and here we are talking 14 years later,” said McCauley.

She worries for her dogs and for her own safety when out in the yard.

“I always try to have gloves on, and then wash up good, because you never know,” McCauley said.

All of it leaves her frustrated at the federal government.

When asked how long this issue has gone on, McCauley said it has gone on “way too long, way too long.”

News 4 took McCauley's concerns directly to officials at the EPA.

“We are doing the best we can, I mean, we are not attempting to delay this or postpone any of these actions,” said Dan Kellerman with the EPA.

Kellerman said about 200 properties have been re-mediated of lead in that area since 2005.

In the re-mediation process, a foot of soil is scraped off and replaced.

"It appears to be a very simple process, you go out, you remove the soil and you put it back, but we are dealing with hundreds if not thousands of property owners,” Kellerman said.

Kellerman said a contract dispute delayed them for a couple of years, but now they are back on track. They prioritize homes with the highest concentrations of lead and where children live. Currently, county health officials say they have 13 cases of children whose blood has elevated levels of lead.

“Protecting human health is our overall objective on these projects,” said Kellerman.

McCauley lives by herself and her lead levels are not among the highest in the county.

But just recently, after inquiries to News 4 and her senators, she got some encouraging news, her yard could be cleaned up in just a few weeks.

“We are going to get this done,” McCauley said.

The EPA said there are hundreds of properties in the area that still need to be tested for lead. They said it could be another decade or so before the properties are cleaned up.

In the meantime, they ask for homeowners to be patient and to take some precautions, like washing hands thoroughly after working in the yard and also thoroughly washing vegetables grown in areas with elevated lead levels. 

If you are affected by lead levels, the EPA has released a fact sheet with information on the issue.

Similar lead issues were found in Jefferson, Iron, St Francois and Madison counties. Click here to see affected areas.

Copyright 2019 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All Rights Reserved

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